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Kozy Shack in Snack Lineup for the Mets

The newest acquisition for the New York Mets has a thick body with some jiggle to it.

No, the team did not get Mo Vaughn back.

Rather, the Mets picked up a sponsorship deal with Kozy Shack, the maker of rice and chocolate puddings. Tubs of the stuff are now being sold at Shea Stadium alongside the hot dogs and giant pretzels, and are being included in children’s meals at the ballpark.

So much for peanuts and Cracker Jack.

Kozy Shack, which is based in Hicksville, N.Y., is trying to position its products as a healthy alternative to the foods that most people look forward to at a ballgame. Robert Striano, the chief executive of Kozy Shack, described his pudding as healthier than “most snacks you eat or decadent desserts you can eat,” adding that parents would welcome the opportunity to steer their Mets-loving children away from, say, cotton candy and ice cream.

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But some Mets fans — who are arguably more concerned these days with the wobbliness of the team’s fielding and pitching than its desserts — seemed unimpressed by the availability of spoon-up comfort food.

Partnering with a pudding maker is “typical of the Mets,” said Kevin McGinn, a 43-year-old Yankees fan from Staten Island, speaking at Shea last week. He compared the soft dessert to the way that Omar Minaya, the general manager of the Mets, fired Willie Randolph abruptly last month. “Spineless, wishy-washy,” Mr. McGinn said.

Outside the stadium at last Friday’s game against the Yankees, the pavement was littered with Bud Light cans, Fritos bags and a smattering of empty pudding bowls and plastic spoons. The pudding connoisseurs had apparently dined and dashed on free samples handed out by Kozy Shack representatives; only critics remained.

“We walked by where they were giving out free samples. I said, ‘Why would I want pudding right now?’ ” said Erin Bolstad, a 30-year-old Mets fan from Madison, N.J. “Walking into a game, that’s the last thing I would want.”

Although Kozy Shack products have been available at Shea for about a year, the status of the confection as “the official pudding of the New York Mets” became official only last week. At the time the company put out a news release announcing, “Now, Every Day is Pudding Day at Shea.”

Indeed, the “official pudding” honorific is almost certain to carry over from Shea Stadium to the new Citi Field in 2009, according to Mets management. Kozy Shack and the Mets said they were looking at a three-year deal starting next year; neither would comment on the dollar amount.

How did the Queens team wind up lending its name to a dessert that is perhaps best known as the punch line for jokes about Bill Cosby? Thank Mr. Striano, who pitched pudding to the Mets as a health food.

That might not have been hard to do, when compared with the other official foods of the Mets: A four-ounce cup of Kozy Shack rice pudding carries 3 grams of fat, while a slice of Sbarro cheese pizza packs 13 grams and a Nathan’s hot dog on a bun delivers 20 grams, according to Diet- Facts.com.

Mr. Striano said that Mr. Minaya was a fan of Kozy Shack — or at least its production facilities. “He came out and visited and toured the plant,” Mr. Striano said.

The team’s publicity department could not confirm that there were pudding fans on the active roster. But Al Leiter, the retired Mets pitcher who does color commentary during televised games (for the Yankees, truth be told), counts himself as one: in an e-mail interview, he said that he had asked Mr. Striano to make pudding pops so that he could “have one or two during a game while in the booth.”

Now the Kozy Shack name graces the stadium’s turnstiles and billows up on the field’s huge video screen. The pudding is sold at all of the stadium’s high-traffic concession areas.

Kozy Shack products have sold well at Shea, according to Dave Howard, executive vice president for business operations for the Mets. “It is important that it does move well, because it is perishable,” he said.

If the Mets risk some ribbing by adopting a food that some might consider athletically suspect, at least the franchise is not alone. The Los Angeles Dodgers are sponsored by Farmer John pork products, associating the baseball team with lard, bacon and liverwurst.

An informal poll of sports marketing professionals did not turn up many other incongruous examples, though perhaps it counts that an official sponsor of Major League Baseball’s Web site is Viagra.

To try to build some pudding fever at the home of the Amazin’s, Kozy Shack is giving out free pudding at Shea one day each month through Sept. 5. The next pudding day is July 25, when the Mets play the St. Louis Cardinals.

Needless to say, the Mets have some more-traditional food sponsors as well. One of them, Wise Foods, started a promotion in May to tout its status as the Official Potato Chip and Cheez Doodle Sponsor of both the Mets and the Boston Red Sox. The company sent out teams of people — the “Wise Snack Squad” — in May and June to various public places in New York and Boston to give out sample packages.

There was an Internet component to the promotion: the snack teams gave out game pieces with printed codes that can be entered in a Web site, www.wisesnack-squad.com. Some winners will get baseball themed prizes like on-field batting practice or game tickets.

“We definitely have seen an uptake in our sales from this promotion,” said Jolie Weber, marketing director for Wise Foods.

Kozy Shack reports the same. Enough Mets fans are buying the pudding that Kozy Shack has begun developing a marketing division to reach out to other stadiums as well as to casinos and cruise lines.

Mr. Striano said he had talked to the Red Sox and the New York Yankees about getting his puddings into their stadiums.

From there, he said, he would like to woo the nation with more wholesome foods that Kozy Shack is developing, like ready-made cereal and soy pudding.

That might come as a disappointment to Mets fans like Eric Simon, who said he was hoping that a training regimen of luscious pudding might increase the team’s collective weight.

“Everybody’s got their workout regimens and their personal trainers, so you don’t get too many tubby ballplayers anymore — regrettably, I think,” said Mr. Simon, who runs the Mets Web site AmazinAvenue.com.

“I like the tubby ballplayers. It’s fun to see them sort of flop around the base path. Adds a little humor to the game,” Mr. Simon said.

“More pudding is what I think they’re missing.”